Buying a Flute Article
Buying a Flute Article
Buying a Flute Article
Silver, Platinum, Titanium......um.....Unobtainium; do you need a flute made
out of expensive materials?
never-ending debate on whether gold, silver or platinum
(or other exotic metals) enhances the sound qualities of
the flute, I thought it might be interesting to offer up
a series of links that discuss this topic.
See if any of these articles interest you:
1. Tests demonstrating that experienced flutists cannot tell the flute's
2. The original (older)Coltman document concerning the effects of
materials used in flute making (summary: any material can
be made to sound well if the flute maker takes a great
deal of care in workmanship):
Robert Dick's comments on the Geneva Flute Competitions
gold players not projecting sufficiently to judges seated
farther back in auditorium:
James Galway's three samples of the opening phrase of
Syrinx played on platinum, 24k gold and a silver Yamaha
400 in which it's very hard to tell the instruments
Click on platinum,
gold, silver when you arrive at the above site.
brief summary of year long discussion on FLUTElist that
included over 70 contributers (teachers, professional
players, headjoint makers, students):
The difference between a gold, a silver, and a headjoint
made of any
other material is often not only subjective on the part
of the player, but also a question of there being no two
headjoints exactly alike even when they ARE made of the
Handcut headjoints made by experts typically sound better
than cheaper, factory cut headjoints.
Carefully finished headjoints typically sound better than
hastily finished headjoints.
But even among almost identical headjoints made by the
same headjoint craftsperson, no two are exactly alike.
Every year we answer this question of gold vs. silver
quite a few times, and here are some of the more
interesting bits and pieces of answers I've seen on the
internet over the years:
1. There is a Scientific American article from '98, entitled "Unsound Reasoning" by Karla
Harby regarding headjoint materials and their sound
If it is still available on the net in PDF for reading
arrive at the above PDF file, scroll down to page 2 to
see "Unsound Reasoning" article.
No two headjoints are alike, and even concrete flutes can
sound like wooden flutes in a blind listening test.
Galway is quoted in the article as saying that gold and
platinum flutes play better probably because the flute
builders are more careful and spend more time when
handcrafting expensive materials into top-of-the-line
2. Rampal is said to have picked up a
silver flute, in a documentary
interview, and said to the interviewer:
"This is the sound of a silver flute (plays).
This is the sound of a gold flute (plays same flute,
making a different tone colour.)"
3. Galway also states in his PBS Biography that he cannot
tell which flute (gold/silver/other) that he is playing
on which CD. He simply can't tell them apart by
4. Albert Cooper is said to have invited
a group of flute specialists over one evening to try a
new kind of flute material out. Blindfolded, each was
handed the same flute and asked to guess the proportions
"mystery" headjoint material by simply blowing
on it and listening
They guessed all sorts of things: 10% gold, 20% platinum
etc. etc. After they'd all put in their guesses, Cooper
revealed that he'd made this headjoint out of melted down
Cooper's summary? It's not the material it's the
5. My own theory? (by Jen :>)
Until CNC technology is used that will allow
testers to test identical flute headjoint
"embouchure cuts" in identical-in-all-respects
headjoints made of different metals, there will probably
not be a definitive answer to the gold and silver
All is conjecture, speculation and subjective opinion
(some of which is very strong among those who love
playing on gold.)
However, subjectively, most flute players who give an
opinion come up with descriptions such as:
-The gold sounds warmer, darker, deeper, more complex.
- The silver sounds brighter, has more sparkle, more
No one knows for sure, since the most topnotch players
can usually get both extremes of tone colour, like
Rampal, out of a single headjoint.
Hope this helps.
If you're rich you can afford to experiment.
Be aware, however, that not all headjoints work on all
flute bodies. You still have to try many headjoint cuts,
brands and sizes to find the one that gives the best
results on your flute.
If you're poor, get a decently made headjoint (have an
expert flutist help pick one out) and practice lots of
tone colours using embouchure techniques outlined by
Roger Mather, Ann Cherry, Robert Dick, Trevor Wye, etc.
A good book list of these authors can be found at:
to Jen's homepage